Christians, it’s time to stop picking bad fruit from a bad tree.

  
I hope I start to see changes in how many American Christians talk about LGBTQ people and equality issues. Because if you tell us that you’re sorry for our suffering today, but go back to opposing our rights and demeaning us for being LGBTQ tomorrow, then your words of love are empty and pointless. If you falsely accuse trans people of putting you in danger in bathrooms but you don’t work to stop the REAL violence we face every day, then you are a hypocrite.

You must reevaluate how you address LGBTQ issues. You MUST start accepting us, even if you personally still disagree with us. You can’t claim to care about me and still oppose legislation that would help protect me and those I love from violence and discrimination. You can’t claim to care about us when your anti-LGBTQ teachings are literally driving young people into depression and suicide at record rates, and encouraging people to see us as threats which results in violence. You don’t get to claim to be loving when you spread misinformation about us that puts us in even more danger. Many Christians believe in sin, but they don’t expect non-believers to follow their religion’s standards and they don’t put us down for it or fight our legal equality. This I understand and can even respect. But you have NO RIGHT to expect anyone else to live by your religion’s standards, or to socially punish people for not conforming to your personal ideas of morality and normality. It’s literally killing us, and has been for a very long time. But you don’t see it. You don’t want to see it. You want to see us as bad people who are persecuting you, instead of the other way around. 

  
You keep picking bad fruit off the tree and saying it’s a good tree. But the fruit of homophobia is pain and death. Why are you still watering a poisonous tree? 

Do I have to scream for you to hear me? Do I have to bleed for you to see me? Cause I grieve; you’re not listening to me. (A song from my Christian days. It seemed appropriate.)

The Bank of Emotional Goodwill: Some Christians are Abusing It.

In every relationship, there is a level of accumulated emotional goodwill. We’ll compare it to a bank account. We all start out with an empty bank account, and we fill it up with positive interactions with each other. When we ask something of the other person or hurt them, we drain some of that goodwill. If we deposit more than we withdraw, then we have good relationships. If one person withdraws but rarely deposits, we eventually run out of goodwill and then a negative balance occurs- this is when frustration and anger comes up.

Here’s the problem with being a Christian in Americasome of you are constantly draining our tanks of goodwill and you don’t even realize it. You assume that we should be totally fine with how you’re treating us, and that we should never complain about it. Then when you make yet another withdrawal on an empty balance, we snap. You can’t figure out why we’re upset because you don’t understand how you’re draining us on a daily basis.

This is how some of you drain our tanks of goodwill:

  • When people change their beliefs, you make them feel bad about it. “You’ve disappointed us by changing your beliefs and making decisions we don’t approve of. We can’t be happy because you don’t share our beliefs anymore.” Forcing someone to choose between their conscience and making their family happy is a terrible burden to put on anyone. I am not responsible for your happiness. If you cannot be happy because I don’t share your beliefs, then you have a personal problem and you’re taking that problem out on me. That’s unfair.
  • When people change their beliefs, you accuse them of abandoning or betraying you. But we’re just following our conscience, same as you. Just because I started out believing something doesn’t mean I am obligated to continuing believing it. In fact, changing our minds is a normal part of growing up. Of course I started out as a Christian- I didn’t know anything else! One of the worst feelings in the world is knowing that you have failed the expectations of those you love.
  • There is something seriously wrong with you for thinking this way. You are a broken, immoral person for not thinking like us. You must be deceived by the Devil or be mentally compromised somehow; it’s inconceivable that you could change your mind without something being terribly wrong with you. You must be going crazy!” If you have said or implied any of this to your loved ones, then congratulations! You have most likely ripped a hole through their heart and they will forever bear the scars. You have made them feel like a pile of horse dung, destroyed their self esteem and self confidence, and then when they get upset with you for hurting them so much you’ll shake your head and wonder “what did I ever do to them?”
  • Unresolved conflict. Problems don’t just go away because we don’t talk about them. If you’ve hurt someone and have refused to change the hurtful attitudes or actions, or if you won’t even acknowledge that the hurt took place and apologize, then the other person will be forced to deal with that pain in silence even if you have forgotten about it. Every time you post or say something that reminds the person of the hurt you caused them, you are reopening the wound all over again. The only way to solve this is to stop avoiding the problem and fix it head on. If you won’t fix it, then don’t complain when the people you’ve hurt sometimes get emotionally triggered and get upset with you over seemingly nothing. It’s not nothing; it’s all the underlying hurt that hasn’t been resolved. You just poured more salt in the wound and then wonder why they’re mad again.
  • You knowingly and willingly worship a god that you believe will melt the flesh from my bones because I believe the wrong things. The fact that you think I deserve this kind of punishment makes me sick to my stomach if I think about it for too long. Sure, you have a right to believe this way, but you’re not free from how this makes your loved ones feel.
  • You demonize those who disagree with you. It’s one thing to say “I don’t agree with your opinion on this matter.” It’s another thing to imply or outright say that the other person has no morals, is incapable of sound judgment (“deceived by the Devil”), does not deserve compassion if they make decisions you don’t like, and so on. I have many Christian friends, and most of them I get along with perfectly fine because they don’t make me feel inferior to them– we respect each other even when we disagree. So if people are getting mad at how you’re expressing your beliefs, it might be time to reevaluate your methods and attitudes. Don’t blame us for getting mad at you if you’re making yourself needlessly offensive to people.
  • You demean us. “Gay people are unnatural and deviant and they are sexual predators. They will destroy society! I can’t have those perverts around my children. Transgender people are abnormal and shouldn’t be accepted by civilized society. Atheists can’t be trusted. They’re always angry and selfish. They can’t possibly have moral standards and they’re going to ruin society.” Listen carefully- THIS IS VERY HURTFUL STUFF YOU’RE SAYING OR IMPLYING HERE. Also, LGBTQ people face high rates of suicide and assault because these attitudes and inaccurate stereotypes keep being perpetuated and used against us. Something to keep in mind.
  • You tell me what I believe. When my beliefs changed, many Christians immediately applied their atheist/Pro Choice/Feminist/Liberal stereotypes onto me without even bothering to find out who I really was and what I actually believed. And most of their stereotypes were wrong. So they created an image of me in their head that was based on fiction, not fact, and then couldn’t understand why I was upset.
  • You oppress others. Disagreeing with someone is one thing. Even if you’re rude, I can still work around that. But opposing their legal rights? That’s a different story. It’s gone from disagreement to you actively forcing your personal beliefs onto them. Opposing my right to make my own decisions in regards to who I marry, how I plan my family, and opposing my right to not be discriminated against… when you do these things, the message you send is this: “I should make your decisions for you. You aren’t good enough to choose your own path. My personal beliefs are more important than your personal liberty.”
  • Your “Us vs Them” attitude. Mainstream Christianity has declared war on the rest of society because they cannot tolerate the rest of us living or believing things differently than them. And many of you align yourself with this movement and say the same things that they do. If we’re not on the same side as you, then we are either potential converts or enemy combatants. And then when we say “Hey! Back off and let us live in peace! Just end the war already and coexist with us!” you claim that we are attacking you. When you start a war, don’t be surprised when people fight back and tell you that you’re not very nice.
  • You equate disagreement with persecution. People disagreeing with you or telling you that you’re hurting them is not persecution. People asking for the same rights you have is not persecution.

We hear these messages constantly, day in and day out, sometimes with flowery language but sometimes almost as bluntly as I wrote it here. (Did I tell you about the Christian online who told me that I deserved to lose most of my friends when my beliefs changed?)

There is nothing wrong with me for being an atheist, for being Pro Choice, a Liberal, or for not being heterosexual. And yet so many people have made it very clear that these parts of me are utterly unacceptable to them- there is something wrong with me because I don’t agree with them anymore.

I’m crying as I write this. You cannot tell me that I’m deficient and a bad person for changing my beliefs without hurting me deeply. There is nothing wrong with me– and yet you think there is. I will never be whole again in your eyes.

Well guess what? Being rejected and judged for who you are hurts, and it causes low self esteem and stress. So in a way, people create their own self-fulfilling prophecies. “People who leave the faith are always angry and lash out at us!” Well of course we are angry! You spend so much effort making us feel inadequate and bad for not believing like you- of course we will not be happy with you and will probably be mad at your religion when we finally leave it! Yes, sometimes people go overboard (I did at first), but you are also making it pretty rough for ex-Christians and then blame us when we get upset.

The Tank Gets Drained

So our tank of emotional goodwill gets drained, and drained, and drained some more. What happens when the tank gets empty and then you make another withdrawal? It goes into the negative and we get irritated. We develop a short fuse with you. You’re taking and taking without depositing enough to fill it back up again. So when you are not depositing, but then make a withdrawal (like posting another thing that reminds me of how little you think of me), you have now pushed us into the negative. It should not surprise you when we get snappy with you when this occurs- after all, you have been abusing our goodwill bank for a very long time.

Understand Your Position of Dominance and Privilege.

Yes, this goodwill bank account thing does go both ways. You have a goodwill tank with us too and we also need to be mindful of how we treat you in return. I’ve never claimed to be perfect at this, and I’ve apologized before for responding in ways that I shouldn’t. But you must understand the difference in power and social dominance here, and understand that for the most part we are forced to be on the defensive against you when we would much rather just live in peace.

As Christians in the USA, you are in the majority- 70% Christians (of various sects) versus 3% atheists and 3.4% LGBTQ.

Please read those stats again. WE ARE THE MINORITY HERE. BY A LANDSLIDE.

When we say something against you, it is NOT the same as you saying it against us because we do not have the social power and privilege behind it like you do. You’re in the overwhelming majority; we’re so small that we have to scream to even be heard compared to you. We face social ostracizing and rates of physical violence and discrimination that many Christians simply can’t relate to because they’re never had to personally see or experience it for themselves. They’re so used to their position of social dominance and privilege that they can’t comprehend what it’s like to live in the US and not have those freedoms.

Almost all of our political leaders identify as Christians. They pray and believe in God, like you.

For LGBTQ or non-Christians to earn the SAME rights as Heterosexual Christians, we have to fight tooth and nail for it just like women and people of color have had to fight for theirs.

And even when we finally win and get some equality, mainstream Christianity gangs up on us to take our rights away again. How many Christian politicians talk about reversing marriage equality, or ending safe abortion access?

Do you have any idea how many millions of dollars are spent by American Christians just to oppose LGBTQ equal rights? It is literally a nationwide campaign to make sure LGBTQ people have to live by Christian values. And in return? LGBTQ people have never once tried to pass laws requiring Christians to marry someone of the same gender, or to become transgender. All we want are equal rights and to be treated with dignity, just like women and people of color have fought for. That is not persecution. This is us asking to be treated fairly, and Mainstream Christianity is freaking out that they don’t get to control us anymore.

Mainstream American Christianity is a massive social machine with one focus- to make America a Christian nation. Christians of this sort are constantly pushing to have their beliefs be adopted by all of society- and then they wonder why minorities like me, who have very little voting power or social power in comparison to them, get so angry about it. You’re acting like bullies, guys. 70% Christians vs 3% atheists/3.4% LGBTQ and you act like this is a fair fight, or that you are somehow the victims.

So you and people like you are draining our goodwill all the time even if you’re not talking to us directly. We see the things you say and support regarding people like us, and we’re not impressed. We are a pitifully small minority in comparison to you, and yet you use your massive influence to paint us as awful people and you actively fight our equality. Our goodwill bank account is constantly in a state of withdrawal, and we are expected to put up with this treatment from you even when you give us nothing in return and contribute to immense societal harm against us. If we object, then we are accused of attacking you.

Expressing Your Beliefs Without Oppressing Others.

If you want non-Christians to stop getting so easily upset with you, then look at how much you and your fellow Christians are draining from our goodwill banks.

When you tear us down by constantly telling saying how bad you think people like us are, are you making a conscious effort to build us back up again? (And no, telling us about Jesus does not count. That’s only a good thing in your world, not ours.) If you want us to respect you, then stop beating us down with your Bible and politics and start making positive deposits into our lives!

It’s hard to get angry at someone who makes you feel good about yourself. And you know what? When you build people up instead of tearing them down, they may actually start to open up to what you have to say. Even if they don’t agree with it, they’re not likely to be hostile towards you if you have treated them with respect and dignity and supported them when they’re being persecuted and needed help.

If you align yourself with Mainstream Christianity, we may start out very apprehensive or nervous around you because we’ve been burned by people affiliated with you so many times before. You can show us that you’re different- and we’d love to see that! But if you do or say the same things to us that everyone else does, then don’t get offended when we respond to you like we do to them- with irritation and justified anger. You’ve shown you’re no different than the other millions of Christians that have made the USA an awful place for us to live in.

So how can you express your beliefs without being oppressive?

First, stop crying persecution all the time. This isn’t the Middle East. It’s very frustrating when you say we’re persecuting you when we just want you to leave us alone so we can live in peace. Or, for you to say we’re attacking you when we ask to be treated as equals. Yes, some people are jerks and will argue or throw insults over anything and they’re out of line, but most of us have genuine grievances and have good reason to be angry. That doesn’t mean we’re persecuting you.

Second, make sure you are treating us with respect and dignity. You greatly outnumber us, so it gets overwhelming dealing with stuff like this from all of you all the time. Don’t be another hurtful voice in a sea of hurtful voices. You will not win anyone to Christianity that way. You just make people even more hostile to your religion because you’re hurting us with it.

Thirdly, do not oppose our equal rights. You like having the freedom to make your own decisions, right? You wouldn’t want someone else’s personal beliefs to be forced on you, so don’t do that to us. If anyone ever tried to make it illegal for you to go to church, I’d be right there fighting for your rights. Why? Because I stand for equality- not just for me, but for everyone. It would be nice if you felt my rights were worth fighting for too, but if you can’t support me then at LEAST don’t be one of the ones oppressing me.

 

Sorry this was long, but there are years of pain and frustration that needed an outlet. If you took the time to read it all, perhaps you’ll understand me a bit better now. Either way, I wish you well.

 

What Not to Say to an Atheist When They’re Grieving

086b16bebf7132e2b4770016186d4b25So I’ve had some time to process this, and I’m ready to talk about it.

When well-meaning people say that “There is no comfort or hope without Jesus” or “You can’t get through loss without faith” when addressing people who may not share those beliefs, what’s essentially happening is that they are putting down other people’s beliefs and methods of dealing with grief in order to promote their own. It’s exactly what a salesman does- they belittle their competition so their own product is more enticing.

You may personally need Jesus for comfort and hope. But I do not. And that’s ok.

As an atheist, I don’t need prayer or faith to get through sadness and loss. I’ve lived in both belief systems, and I can tell you from extensive personal experience as an ex-Christian that neither offers a superior method of comfort. They’re just different, and some people may do better with one method over another. We all grieve and find solace in different ways; what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. I acknowledge this, and I don’t tell religious people that prayer is useless as a comfort method just because I personally find no solace in it. That would be incredibly rude and hurtful, and also untrue since prayer is a great comfort to many. It used to be for me too, after all. But lately I have heard so many well meaning people say or imply that their faith and their beliefs are the only way to get through difficult life circumstances. And given recent events, it’s been incredibly frustrating- especially since these exact things were said at the funeral. I sat there, listening to people blatantly say that their method of hope and comfort is the only one that works. No hope without Jesus. No comfort without their religion. Anyone who isn’t a Christian must have hopeless, meaningless lives and couldn’t possibly get through this grief. But it’s not remotely true.

Not gonna lie, hearing those words in that context was so hurtful that I felt like punching a wall or leaving the room. Having the loss of my loved one be so blatantly used to push someone else’s belief system on me in my time of grief was nearly unbearable. But I don’t like making scenes and the focus of the day was supposed to be about our loved one, so I held my peace. Afterwards I went to the bathroom where I bawled my eyes out in a toilet stall because one again my beliefs had been belittled and put down so others could promote their own- and right when I most needed support and to feel emotionally safe and accepted. Once again it was made very clear to me that some Christians will never see my beliefs as worthy of recognition and respect and validation; I will always be their project in need of fixing, the heathen in need of conversion. The only beliefs that mattered were Christian ones.

It would have been far easier if all the many people who have said these things had bad intentions. I could have just written them off as rude, but they were well-intentioned people just trying to help. They genuinely thought this was the best way to act. I’ve always tried my best to give people the benefit of the doubt; that hasn’t changed.

I’m bringing this up now because the people who say these things usually don’t realize how hurtful it is to those who don’t share their beliefs. If nobody ever makes them aware of it in a way that fosters respectful conversation, how can we ever mend bridges and learn to get along better? How will they ever learn to stop pushing away the very people that they’re trying to win over?

I’m also sharing this because if I say nothing, people will assume that I’m perfectly fine with them assuming that it’s ok to act this way towards me. I’m not. I am just to polite to make a scene in the moment.

I don’t hate anyone for saying these things, and I won’t hold a grudge, but I’m really (really!) not ok with it. I waited so I could express my feelings without allowing too much hurt to affect my ability to address this without lashing out.

There is nothing wrong with finding comfort or hope in prayer or a religion or in spirituality. It really doesn’t bother me when I see people pray for their own comfort or when they pray for others who want to be included in that, or if they give thanks for their food without expecting me to join in. That’s fine! Go for it! However, the superiority and exclusionary ideology that puts certain Christians’ beliefs and methods on a pedestal above everybody else’s does bother me- especially when I’m grieving and would like for my beliefs to ALSO be respected and acknowledged as valid and important, even if it’s just done by keeping things more neutral when in potentially mixed company. I don’t expect religious people to do atheist things to make me feel comfortable. I want to make that very clear. I don’t need others to participate in my personal traditions in order to feel respected and validated. Honestly I’d much rather try to make everybody feel welcome and accepted no matter what their beliefs are, and to focus on the life of the person who has passed, rather than focusing on ideologies and people’s personal beliefs which people are surely going to disagree on. It’s the exclusion and the implication that my beliefs are inferior and useless that makes me angry and hurt, not the fact that others believe in God and pray.

Please, hear me. Do not ever tell a non-believer that they have no hope or comfort just because they don’t believe like you. It’s pretty much the most hurtful thing you could possibly say to an atheist when they are grieving. Your good intentions may help us look past it, but they don’t make the words any less hurtful or exclusionary.

 

Are you a believer who is unsure how to act around non-believers in these situations? Feel free to ask here. I promise I won’t bite. I’ll just be happy that you care enough to try to learn how to interact with us better. 🙂 Are you an atheist or someone of another belief system who has experienced similar things? Share them if you wish. Everyone must be respectful, however. I wrote this to try to build a better understanding between those who so often just do not understand each other, not to facilitate pointless arguments. We can share our frustrations and grievances in a reasonable manner. Anyone who resorts to name calling or attacks other people personally will be banned.

Musings on Love

abbe2097a5d43d479e860eb214022357One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, First Knight:

Arthur: God uses people like you, Lancelot. Because your heart is open. You hold nothing back. You give all of yourself.
Lancelot: If you knew me better, you would not say such things.
Arthur: Oh, hey, I take the good with the bad, together. I can’t love people in slices.

God stuff aside, this scene really sums up my thoughts about love.

**We can’t love people in slices.** Love, whether it’s romantic or platonic, is not complete if we attach conditions to it. People are not two dimensional caricatures; we are complex, multi-faceted beings that embody both good and bad, intelligence and ignorance, happiness and sadness, strength and weakness. If we only accept the parts that we like about people, then we’re not truly accepting them at all. Instead, we’re holding affection for a false version of them that we have in our heads. It’s like photoshopping a picture of someone and only ever wanting to look at that fake, touched up version of them instead of seeing the actual person. It’s not real, it’s not really them, but we prefer it that way because their real self is not acceptable to us.

If I can’t accept you as you are, do I truly love you or care about you? Or do I only like the plasticized version of you that I’ve created in my head? I don’t think we can say we truly love someone without actually accepting them as they are.

Now it’s true that we’re not always going to like everything a person does or thinks. We may have very different interests and beliefs and feel very strongly about these things being good or bad, and that’s ok. Accepting and loving someone as they are doesn’t mean you personally have to like or do those things, it just means you accept that the other person does, and you don’t look down on them for it. It means that you love the WHOLE them, even if you disagree or dislike some of it. At least that’s how I’ve personally come to see it.

If you get to know me well enough, I’m sure we will eventually disagree on something. I’m very opinionated, after all. 😉 I like seeing intelligent minds sharing their differing opinions in a respectful way. Listening to the perspectives of others is how we learn and grow. If we only ever talk to people who share all of our views, we’ll never be challenged to think anything new.

It should be noted that there’s a huge difference between accepting people as they are and putting up with toxic or abusive behavior, or dealing with a loved one suffering from addiction or obviously self destructive behavior. There are other serious issues at play in these situations besides simply accepting or not accepting someone.

Religious Manipulation Strikes Again

A few days ago, someone from my religious past sent me old photos from my childhood as a nice gesture. Tonight he sent me a religious music video of a worship song that I used to sing all the time when I was religious, one I was rather known for since I sang it passionately in church all the time. The message was clear: He thought that sending me a video of my old favorite worship song would somehow make me want to be a Christian again. 
This person was once a person of great significance in my life when I was a young teenager, he was a mentor figure. Now I can’t communicate with him without him trying to blatantly coerce me back into their belief system. He knew I didn’t like him pushing his beliefs on me because he’d done it before; I removed him from my Facebook friend’s list after repeated failed attempts to get him to respect my wish to not be preached at. So he certainly knew better, and sent it anyways. 

I feel like he used those old photos in a manipulative way to get me to be more receptive to his blatant reconversion attempt. He did something nice for me, so he probably figured that I’d feel obligated to not be mad at his intrusive and unsolicited religious pressuring. 

I don’t hate religion, there are many wonderful religious people that I have a lot of respect for. But I do hate religion being used to pressure or harm others, and I no longer have the patience to let people use their faith to bully or demean me. I’ve grown a backbone over these past years… I started out terrified of negative social confrontation and making people upset with me, and now I have no problem putting people in their place and being unapologetic about having my own opinions. It’s been a very difficult journey of self improvement, facing my fears, and boosting my low self confidence. And like all life journeys, it’s far from over. 

My reply to him was very blunt. I didn’t say anything nasty or mean, that’s not really in my nature, but I certainly didn’t mince words about what I thought of his message. In reply, he preached at me and then insisted on saying “I’ll be praying for you” after I reiterated that I did not like him pushing his beliefs on me. 

I hate this so much. I hate being reminded yet again that people of importance in my life who once praised and respected me when I was religious now think so little of me as an atheist. It’s been several years since I came out as an atheist, and though it’s gotten much better, people’s rejection and negative reactions have yet to stop negatively affecting me. 

I can’t decide if I feel like crying or punching something. Or both amidst some (responsible) weed consumption. But my body says it wants sleep, so that’s going to take priority now that I’ve sorted out some of my thoughts. I find that journaling is an effective way to emotionally process life’s bullshit.  

Would I Worship a God if it Did Exist?

For those who regularly read my blog, you know by now where I stand on evidence and religion. I used to believe in God, but no more. In order for me to ever believe in the existence of a deity again, there would have to be concrete, scientific evidence that proves its existence. Peer reviewed, according to the scientific method- the whole nine yards. This is how I know certain exotic animals exist- I have never seen them myself, but there is a smorgasbord of scientific evidence to show me that they do indeed exist. I don’t see why I should accept less than this when it comes to a deity’s existence, since the question of his existence is far more important than the existence of a rare frog or bird.

But what if that proof did exist, and it was undeniable that a God did exist? And what if this evidence also proved beyond any doubt that this God wanted worship? After all, the Bible says that even demons believe; believing that a god exists and worshiping it are two very different things. Would I give him the worship he (or she or it) seeks?

No. I don’t think I would. Why?

The character of a deity is important.

Why would someone want to be worshiped? To me, the desire to be openly adored and worshiped signifies a deep character problem. It signifies pride and ego that needs stoking, or a major insecurity problem that they are trying to overcome. It also makes me think of narcissism. To be blunt, I cannot think of a single positive reason for wanting to be worshiped.

Think about it. What kind of people do you respect the most? The people who do good things and then demand recognition for it, or the people who do good without any thought of reward or praise? Doesn’t the demand or desire for public praise kind of negate the good that the person does? It becomes a pride and status thing, rather than simply a good thing, when we do things for others in expectation of recognition or reward.

Desiring a “thank you” for a job well done is one thing; desiring worship is another thing altogether.

A good father or ruler does not demand or expect worship.

Many forms of religion view God as a father or mother. Christianity especially reveres God as a father figure. What kind of father wants to see his children prostrated on the ground in submission and humility, like servants or second-class people? What kind of father constantly needs the praise of his children and gets angry when they do not praise him in the way he wants? Not a very good one. We generally call this abuse or bad parenting, depending on the severity. It’s certainly not loving behavior that respects the autonomy and rights of others. And what about nations where ruler worship is required, such as North Korea? Don’t we usually see this kind of behavior from a ruler as extremely negative and unjust to their people?

Doing good deeds does not mean someone deserves worship.

Of course, thanking someone for a good deed is nice to do. But thanking someone is different from worshiping them. If a kind stranger helps me with my groceries, I will certainly say thank you. But I will not worship him or adore him unconditionally.

If God is real, and he created us and this world and is directly involved in our everyday lives, then he is responsible for both our joys and our pain. Why should I thank him for my joys without also holding him accountable for my pain? If a parent gives their child clothing but also knowingly allows a rapist to harm them, should we expect the child to adore their parents? Of course not! Of course, real parents are imperfect and not all-knowing and child molesting tragically happens without their knowledge or permission; but God isn’t supposed to have those limitations. If he knows all and can prevent any pain he chooses, what kind of twisted father would allow his child to be raped or their sibling murdered?

Besides, I didn’t ask to be created. It’s like a parent expecting their child to be eternally grateful for the labor that their mother went through as she gave birth. Yes, she did a great thing and it was very hard. No, it’s not fair to hold that over a child’s head in order to make them adore her. I have a friend whose mother used to always bring up her “18 hours of awful labor!” anytime she wanted to make my friend feel guilty for not appreciating her enough. That’s not love, that’s manipulation.

My freedom and self respect is important to me.

When someone has true freedom and self respect, they do not feel the need to bow before anyone else. Even if one person has more power than the other, true equality and freedom means that we still do not need to bow before them. When we live in a system where the powerful are revered and the powerless are expected to adore them, we live in injustice. I could not serve a deity who acted like this. 

In summary, I think that it’s very unlikely that I would serve a deity even if one was proven to exist. But until there is proof that one exists, it’s all hypothetical and does t really matter. I wrote this primarily because I’m often asked what it would take for me to be a Christian again.

When Christians Question Our Mental Capability to Change our Beliefs

I’ve noticed an interesting trend since my deconversion a few years ago: When we become Christians, we are commended for making a wise decision. Even if we were indoctrinated from an early age and were never shown alternative beliefs as viable options, people rarely question whether or not our decision to become a Christian was based on manipulation, coercion, social pressure, or whether it was used as a crutch during difficult times. However, when we stop believing and become atheists, the first thing some Christians do is question our mental capabilities and our ability to understand our decision.

Here are questions that atheists are regularly asked when they leave their religious faith and openly come out as a non-believer to their religious loved ones. If these same questions were asked of recently converted Christians, they would certainly (and understandably) be considered offensive.

  • “Did someone influence, manipulate, pressure, or coerce you to make that decision? Who in your life convinced you to believe that way?”
  • “Have you really thought it through?”
  • “What trauma or difficult life event caused you to believe this way?”

And then there are the equally offensive assumptions:

  • “You must be deceived by the devil. Your mind has been taken over by demonic influences.”
  • “It’s just a phase, you’ll come back when you’ve come to your senses.”
  • “You must never have been a Christian in the first place; you must have been mistaken about how sincere of a believer you actually were.”

Basically, if you choose to be a Christian, it’s automatically assumed that you’re mentally capable of making that decision without coercion or manipulation involved. If you choose to stop being a Christian, suddenly your mental capabilities, decision-making abilities, and the validity of your deconversion itself are called into question.

Smart, mentally capable people choose Christianity- mentally deficient, damaged, easily influenced people choose atheism. That’s the overwhelming message I received when I came out as an atheist. 

In the words of Adrian Black (see his blog here), another atheist I know who recently came out publicly and whose mental capability was immediately questioned right off the bat:

“Dismissing my decision as something I was coerced, tricked, or forced into is very much questioning my mental ability to decide for myself. It’s amazed me in the times I have been questioned about this how quickly people forget who they’re talking too. To think that I would flippantly justify or be misled on this of all things… If you are looking for the person who persuaded or coerced me, who broke the shackles of my belief, than look here. I am the one who challenged myself… as I always have.

Are you taking the side of the oppressor without realizing it?

Many anti-gay Christians think they’re being kind and loving to LGBTQ people because they’re not physically beating them up or calling them fags like Westboro does. But social oppression is about much more than just physically oppressing us or calling us a few specific names- and you’re probably contributing to our oppression even while praising yourself for being so “tolerant”. Here are a few things to consider.

When you stand by while others are oppressed and demeaned and bullied, you’re taking the side of the oppressors. They think that no one will stand up to them, that other people in their faith accept their treatment of us, and it tells us that we’re not worth defending. Multiple times I’ve been bullied by believers, and my “friends” would defend the bully instead of me just because the bully shares their beliefs and I don’t. But hurtful behavior is hurtful regardless of the beliefs behind it.

When you tell the oppressed that their struggles “aren’t that bad”, that they “shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it”, you’re taking the side of the oppressors. You’re also telling the oppressed that our stories and pain aren’t believable or important to you. Instead of listening to us, you are telling us how bad our pain is even though you have no first hand knowledge of it- and when we tell you that you’re incorrect, you get defensive. Bottom line: We’re telling you about our pain and you won’t believe us. That’s what an oppressive society does: It pretends that the pain they cause minority groups doesn’t exist so the oppressors never have to change. 

When we point out that you’re one of the people causing us pain through your actions or attitudes or words you use to describe us, and you get defensive and call us “bullies” or “too sensitive”, you’re taking the side of the oppressors. We all make mistakes- are you compassionate and humble enough to admit when you’ve made mistakes? Can you learn from them and refrain from causing us more pain in the future? Just because you’re not calling us “fags” doesn’t mean you’re not using words and phrases that demean and belittle us. Not sure what those are? Ask us! Or look it up! Many of us write blogs about this issue all the time.

When you tell us that our oppression is acceptable or even necessary because you believe we are “sinning”, you are taking one of the most oppressive stands of all. You’re telling us that it’s ok for us to suffer because of your religion, even if we did not consent to live by the rules of your religion. Our freedom of choice does not matter to you. Our right to live in peace and without persecution does not matter to you. Our right to follow our OWN beliefs does not matter to you.

Yes-I-am-a-Christian-I-believe-the-bible

Memes like the one to the left are supposed to sound loving and non-oppressive because they say they love us and won’t let anyone bully us. But it’s all very shallow.

“Name calling” and “stereotyping” is what we’re usually accused of when we point out that you’re still causing us immense pain and social oppression- we’re essentially called bullies for calling you out on how you’re treating a marginalized, mistreated minority. We can’t say anything about the negative way you treat us without being accused of having bad attitudes or being mean- even though your camp has been putting us down and restricting our rights for generations.

You say you’re not judging us, and yet in this meme you are:

Demeaning and belittling our loving unions by calling it “homosexual marriage”. Why the quotes? It’s clear that you don’t even accept this as a real thing, even though it’s very real and important to us and it’s now 100% legal. Your disgust and refusal to accept our relationships is crystal clear, and it’s not remotely loving. How would your black friends feel if you posted this meme with the words “interracial marriage” instead of “homosexual marriage”? Would they feel loved and accepted by you? Probably not.

Also, our sexual orientations are not up for debate in whether or not you support it- it’s a core part of who we are, just as yours is. Do I support your sexual orientation? I don’t demean it, I respect your right to live it even if I’m not straight myself, I don’t support laws that would restrict your right to live out your sexual orientation, so yes I do support it. So why won’t you do the same for me? You can support my basic human rights even if you think it’s sinful, just as you do with divorce and many other things that the Bible condemns but we allow in society. Supporting me as a non-heterosexual person doesn’t mean you’re condoning sin, it just means you acknowledge that not everyone is the same as you and that’s ok. 

You still won’t support our right to choose for ourselves or to be ourselves. You don’t have to agree with someone to support them and their choices. I don’t agree with your religion, but I support you as a person and I’ll always support your right to go to church even if I hate what they’re preaching. And I certainly wouldn’t imply that your religion isn’t real or valid just because I strongly disagree with it. You won’t support me as a non-hetereosexual person at ALL, even when my basic human rights are being denied and it’s causing me pain- but I’d better support you, or I’ll get accused of stereotyping and name calling and attacking your religious right to persecute me.

Do not diminish our struggles. Don’t patronize us and tell us that this is just about us “having different opinions” because it’s not. You are treating us like second class citizens, and then getting upset when we tell you that it isn’t enough- that being second class people is not ok with us. We’re ALL equal, we ALL deserve legal and social equality. And when you treat us like second class citizens and then call yourself our friends or say you love us- well, don’t be surprised if we don’t believe you, or when we get upset at the hypocrisy. With friends like these, who needs enemies, right? If our friends and loved ones won’t even support our right to be treated equally and fairly, socially and legally, what do you think we deal with from our enemies? Let that sink in for a moment.

And this is what we deal with. Every. Single. Day. And you wonder why some of us have short fuses. We have these very unloving friends that we must either put up with and try to coexist with even as they contribute to our social and legal oppression, or we remove them from our lives and get accused of being intolerant of someone else’s beliefs because we can’t stand seeing them claim to love us even as they hurt us over and over again. We can’t win!

‘Great Precaution Not To Offend A Minister’: Couple Denied Marriage Explains Why They Chose A Judge (link)

“We took great precaution not to offend a minister — that’s why we went to a judge to get married, never dreaming that he couldn’t follow the law,” Wilson told WTOL. “That he wouldn’t follow the law.”

“To go through that experience when it’s not pleasant and singles you out at a time in your life when you’re celebrating the fact that you have the same right as everyone else, it’s just not good. I don’t want anyone else to go through it,” she added.

But of course, the religious right will never be satisfied. Most same-sex couples who want to marry aren’t asking clergy members they don’t know to marry them, to avoid awkward situations and out of respect for their religious beliefs.

But taxpayer employees of the state have, as written above, a legal duty and sworn oath to do their jobs, “faithfully and impartially.”

How much more are same-sex couples supposed to do to appease anti-gay activists and “Christians”?

What more does the religious right want?

http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/_great_precaution_not_to_offend_a_minister_couple_denied_marriage_explains_why_they_chose_a_judge

So what more can we do? This couple specifically didn’t go to a church in order to not offend any clergy, and they were STILL faced with a religious person who refused to marry them, even though it was literally his job to do so.

This is the next stage of the LGBTQ movement for equality- making sure that state officials actually obey the law. State officials are NOT entitled to refuse service to anyone because of their personal beliefs- they are obligated to represent the law, not themselves, even when they personally disagree with the law. Any government official that cannot represent the law consistently should find a new profession, since they’re unable to fulfill their most basic duties which they swear to uphold.

Government Officials Already Fighting to Discriminate Against Same Sex Couples

Church-and-State

https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/memo-to-state-officials-you-have-no-right-to-discriminate

This action is necessary for two reasons: One, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley have deliberately confused the issue by asserting county clerks may have a “religious freedom” right to refuse to service to some couples and two, some clerks have in fact turned away same-sex couples.

Many of us had hoped that, in the wake of the high court’s ruling, recalcitrant state and local officials would do the mature thing, accept reality and move on. After some initial defiance, that appeared to be the case. In Alabama, probate judges who didn’t want to issue licenses to same-sex couples gave up after Americans United and its allies threatened further legal action.

It’s now obvious that some government officials will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality.

County clerks are already trying to get out of issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, despite the law now allowing it. It’s caused humiliation, unfair delays, and it’s just plain wrong. They’ve even called the police on peaceful gay/lesbian couples just asking for a marriage license, which the law says they’re completely entitled to now. It’s like they see us as criminals for daring to ask a government employee to actually do their job.

It’s not the place of a government official to judge a marriage application that is legal under the law. Their job is to carry out the law, not carry out their personal opinions. Their personal views of the marriages they service are utterly irrelevant in this context; they could inwardly disapprove of every single one and still do their job. Racist clerks still have to do their job or they get fired. It’s no different denying an interracial couple than a same sex couple- they’re both legal and the clerk is not entitled to refuse either of them government service due to personal belief or prejudice.

Discrimination is not a religious freedom in public places of business or government service. These are our shared public spaces that must be accessible equally by all citizens. People can, however, discriminate all day in their homes, churches, private property, etc if they wish.